Alteration of common property such as satellite dish in townhomes
Dear Tony: Are we, as owners of a strata unit, permitted to install satellite dishes for the use of our strata lots?
We live in a townhouse complex in Burnaby and have noticed several dishes installed next to the balconies or on the rooftop, so we assumed that we were allowed to. So we ordered a system for installation and were told by council we could not install the dish. The council said the existing dishes were all grandfathered, although they could not say why, which we find suspicious considering the largest dish belongs to the president of council.
How would you suggest we sort this out?
Dear Doug: The bylaws of the Strata Corporation regulate the installation of objects on common property and the alteration of common property. Always consult your bylaws first to determine what limitations actually exist and what permission you require for the installation of any components.
Items like satellite dishes, hardwood floors, awnings, garden areas and landscaping often have specific bylaws, but any item that requires that any alteration or change in use or appearance of the common property will generally require the written permission of the Strata Corporation.
It gets complicated when you have existing conditions where the Strata Corporation attempts to grant different privileges to different owners, and does not apply the bylaws in the same manner against everyone.
As a good example, your strata bylaw does not identify any type of exemption or “grandfathering.” The bylaw simply reads: “satellite dishes are prohibited anywhere on the common property.”
So who decided that the existing dishes, which under your current bylaw are in violation, are exempt from the bylaw?
More importantly, has the strata corporation maintained an inventory of the dishes, when they were installed and when the bylaw was adopted? Strata Corporations and councils seem to be under the impression that they have the authority to exempt owners, tenants and occupants from bylaws when it serves their purpose.
The strata council has the same obligation to comply with application and enforcement of bylaws as every owner. There may be conditions, for example under the Human Rights Code, that will require a Strata Corporation to accommodate an owner but strata councils need to establish evidence to support the accommodation in the event they are challenged by the owners.
If you want to verify a matter with your Strata Corporation, demand a hearing with council and request written response to their decision, which must be provided to you within one week of the hearing.
Tony Gioventu, Executive Director
Condominium Home Owners' Association (CHOA)